Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus is aware of Roberto Firmino’s strong performances for Liverpool this season, but instead of viewing him as a rival for his national team spot, the Brazil No. 9 told ESPN Brazil that his countryman’s uptick in form is good for everyone ahead of the 2018 World Cup.
Firmino, 26, has enjoyed his best season a professional in 2017-18, scoring a career-high 27 goals and providing an additional 16 assists while helping the Reds reach the semifinal stage of the Champions League.
However, despite recent calls for the contrary, Firmino is firmly behind Jesus in the Brazil pecking order, with the former Palmeiras man’s stunning performances for his country during crucial World Cup qualifiers making him Tite’s first-choice striker.
Asked about Firmino’s surprising season, Jesus told ESPN Brazil: “In fact, this is good for me, for Firmino and for the national team. Then there’s no way to cheer against a teammate.
“Of course I’m going to cheer against his team, but never against him. I’m happy with his season, with everything he’s been doing. It makes me happy and gives me more strength to keep working and improving.
“I pray for of him and I hope he realises all his dreams. I hope that he arrives very well, very strong to compete in the World Cup. This will help him, me and the national team.”
There’s rarely been a shortage of competition within Brazil’s national team for starting spots, and especially at the attacking positions.
Pressed to predict who will be Brazil’s No. 1 striker in Russia, Jesus spoke generally about the talent at Tite’s disposal.
“When you talk about Brazil we’re always going to have high-level players trying to find a place to play,” he said.
“It’s incredible how great and how talented the competition is in the squad.”
When questioned if he and Firmino could play together, the just-turned 21-year-old said the decision wasn’t his.
“This is with the manager, Tite,” said Jesus, who scored the only goal in Brazil’s 1-0 friendly defeat of Germany in March. “I think that it’s kind of complicated in the starting lineup.
“Who knows? A test can be made at a certain time in the game but I think this is more with the coach.”
Jesus added he sees their styles as being similar in certain ways.
“From my point of view, I think that it’s a bit similar way to play because I run to help and to defend like him, I run to attack like him,” he said. “Of course, no one plays the same way, but I think the defensive skills and the way that we try to help the team are the same.
“Like I said, he’s been playing great football and that helps me, helps him and helps Brazil.”
Jesus’ birthday was April 3, the day after his Manchester City side were thrashed by Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie. City then went out in the competition the following week.
“My birthday was a little bit complicated,” Jesus said. “We lost in the Champions League, in the next week we ended up being eliminated from the Champions League. It was two, three complicated weeks.
“But of course, I’m happy to turn 21 and I’m living my dream very happy.”
Of the elimination, he said: You get upset when you see that you have a chance to advance. In another way, we played two great games but Liverpool managed to beat us and deserved it. Let’s try [again] next time.”
Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.